By CARL SMITH
Starkville Police Department issued 22 citations for underage alcohol sales at 21 different city venues during a joint compliance check with the Mississippi Alcohol Beverage Control Agency last weekend.
SPD Capt. Chris Thomas said the citations were issued to employees of a wide variety of Starkville businesses — restaurants, name-brand stores, grocery stores, gas stations and bars — not the businesses themselves. Thomas said SPD would not release a list of where the individual citations were issued.
SPD Sgt. Shawn Word said the weekend’s citations represent the most violations the city has recorded at different locations in one operation. In previous operations, Word said SPD focused on one type of alcohol-selling establishment at a time. This time, officers extended the net.
“I wanted to try and visit every place in the city of Starkville that either sold beer or liquor. We were able to accomplish that,” Word said.
Despite the citations, Mississippi Department of Revenue spokesperson Kathy Waterbury said the businesses’ alcohol sales permits are not in danger of suspension during Super Bulldog Weekend. Waterbury said state ABC officials have not begun investigating the establishments for a possible sales suspension.
“If more serious information (is reported to us), the bureau could suspend or revoke (a business’) permit,” Waterbury said. “We’re required by law to give them notice and due process ... and a hearing. The law provides for penalties; (penalty severity) ... depends on how many violations they’ve had and the circumstances.”
Once notified of a potential suspension, Waterbury said a business has 60 days to appeal and have a hearing set.
“It’s something that takes several months to resolve,” she said. “We have revocation and suspension hearings all the time.”
Thomas said each citation is for $385. SPD and ABC maintain a good working relationship and conduct compliance checks routinely, he said.
“This is a good time of the year for a check because proms and graduations are coming up — a more likely time when minors are getting out more and trying to purchase alcohol. Usually we try and do (compliance checks) this time of year and at the beginning of each (Mississippi State University) school semester,” Thomas said. “I don’t think these citations alone are going to shut (businesses’ alcohol sales) down, but it definitely will get them aware of procedures. It’s up to the businesses to teach their employees to properly follow identification-checking procedures.”
Waterbury said the state offers free compliance training for alcohol-selling businesses.
“If a retailer asks us, we’ll go out and help their employees tell how to identify underage customers and fake IDs,” she said. “We routinely travel to Mississippi’s college towns for training, and we also speak to student groups about the consequences of underage drinking.”
Overtime pay used for the enforcement of SPD’s compliance check was paid for by grants obtained by the police department.
In addition to the weekend alcohol citations, SPD officers also issued 34 other citations including possession of marijuana, possession of alcohol by a minor, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, possession of a fake ID, public drunk, DUI and disorderly conduct.